Shared Dreams: More than a Hollywood Myth
Hollywood loves to blow your mind. The mantra might as well be “the more controversial or out there, the better.” But only so far ‘out there’ because somewhere in the back of a viewer’s mind a decision is made when watching or reading something fictional. They’ll follow along with the story and forget that it’s unreal, or not. I think that’s the bar set to judge a dream as meaningful in the traditional sense. Does it engage you enough to play along?
Shows such as Falling Water at USA Network and Westworld at HBO play on the idea of dreams being more than just nightly image parades or even meaningful reflections on our lives. These shows push the idea that dreams connect to something deeper, something shared in our human experiences and our consciousness that connects everyone and everything together. It’s an idea that captures the popular imagination.
Well, do dreams connect us all together? I say yes, but give me a minute to get to that.
Shared dreams, aka mutual dreaming, is one of those mind-blowing ideas, lassoed especially well by Falling Water to drive the entire storyline. It’s one of those subjects from the fringe that are neither strongly accepted nor strongly denied. For most people, the answer to “do people ever share dreams,” the answer is “well, I suppose it could happen.” Many people report experiencing it at some time in their life, especially while young.
[Check out the Reddit Dreams AMA with Blake Masters, creator of Falling Water.]
But Is Shared Dreaming Real?
In this case, Hollywood might not be far from the truth with it portrays shared dreams — at least, the basic premise. Two or more people have the same dream seen from their own perspective, identical in imagery and action or close to it (people experience some variations in how their mind translates the data into imagery). They can become “lucid” and communicate directly, aware that they’re dreaming, or they’re passive, unaware that they’re dreaming. Two people can share the dream, or 2,000, or 2,000,000,000.
If you believe what physicist Tom Campbell, lucid dreamer Ian Wilson, and other people say they have done, advanced dreamers can intend to fall asleep and “wake up” in a dream then go looking for each other in the dreamscape. Campbell did it while working with Robert Monroe, author of Journeys Out Of Body, and has spoken extensively about it. In most other reports of shared dreaming, it happens spontaneously, especially among family members.
The reports we can use to build a conclusive case for the existence of shared dreams come from laboratory environments and scientific protocols used at places such as Monroe, Mamomadeis, and dream research centers and institutions around the world. The many researchers who report positive and even conclusive results are either totally bonkers or completely truthful.
I know in some cases they are being truthful. I know the researchers and the experiencers personally. Let’s begin with Ian Wilson, who created the website YouAreDreaming.org
Dreamland and physical reality exist in parallel
Ian is convinced that dreaming and physical reality are intimately connected and tangibly affect each other. He once placed a triangle on someone’s forehead who appeared as a character in a lucid dream. The person was a co-worker. Two weeks later, a faint but distinct red triangle appeared on that person’s forehead without any other apparent cause for it. Through 30 years of lucid dreaming, Ian can control everything about his dreams as he’s having them, and he creates dreams like a movie director. He knows that shared dreaming is real. It’s something we all do whether we know it or not.
Ian learned to lucid dream as a teen and has practiced at an advanced level for the past 30 years. He taught himself how to continue observing throughout the process of falling asleep and into the dream world. He watches as the dream switch flips on and a basic grid appears, which is next painted with texture and color, then shape and dimension. He says it’s a lot like the way computers render the graphics for video games. He’s noticing that the waking world we know as reality is built the same way, with a basic grid at its foundation and layers of rendering.
so what he can do while awake during the first stage of sleep is not likely to be found in many other people. But perhaps the interaction with physical reality while dreaming is mostly subconscious and absorbed into the larger reality system that evidently exists. (Our reality might be one of many realities or even an infinite number. Or, one part of a spectrum of a singular reality with many layers). Now we’re only a step away from the acceptance that the dream state can be shared the same as the waking state — “our shared reality” — after showing that they exist in parallel. While awake we share one reality, and while asleep we share another through a faculty of the mind to tap into deep information streams that permeate the fabric of space and time. These “streams” also appear to be the source of consciousness. They emerge out of the quantum world, where the rules of the reality we know don’t apply in any way that we know of.
People at Reddit and all over the world report shared dream and other dream states that affect future events, reveal hidden information, and create “synchronicities” — meaningful coincidences. Objects manifest. Nature responds as if it knows what’s up. People appear and disappear. Signs are given that some mysterious force behind the scene responds to them and even aids their endeavors in life, and in dream life.
And it means we all can share dreams and dream states. We might do it all the time and have no idea it happens. Most people barely remember their dreams and even people with tremendous recall are likely to forget some of them. However, if you slept close to a sibling while growing up, I think you’re more likely to know that you share dreams. We get a lot of accounts of shared dreams from siblings at Reddit. The dreams are way too alike and occur too many times to write off as coincidence.
Shared dreaming is still an “out there” notion despite the evidence
Mutual dreaming sounds shocking to the mainstream but it’s widely accepted in other cultures. Especially so in small, close groups such as the Aborigines of Australia and the monks of Tibet and elsewhere. Shared dreaming is a fact of their life. And it’s found everywhere, from suburb to inner city to into the monasteries and esoteric schools, and out in the heartland. In America it’s still far from being accepted as fact, but at Reddit Dreams people talk openly and anonymously about their dreams so they open up, and the numbers of convincing shared dreaming reports I’ve encountered run into the hundreds. Reddit Dreams in the internet’s largest online forum for dreams, and I’ve led it since 2013 and been contributing to it since 2009.
Here are a few of the best examples I’ve encountered, summarized:
- A family of five shared a dream about going to Central Park in NYC and walking through a skyscraper-high rectangular stone gateway that transported them to Ybisu Gardens in Tokyo, where they reunited with their dad and continued a family vacation which had been cut short. Strike that. Four members shared that entire dream experience. The fifth member, dad, was in Tokyo and dreamed that morning about his family stepping through a rectangular gateway at Ybisu Gardens and joining him to continue their vacation.
- Three members of a family sleeping in the same house on the night after a dear family member died all dreamed about that person coming to them and giving the same message.
- A wife reported that she participated in her husband’s adventure-game dreams almost nightly. When they wake up they compare notes of what happened while dreaming and usually it’s identical.
- Two close friends first noticed how many of their dreams featured each other and were the same. They suspected they were mutual dreaming and tested it by thinking of information to pass the next time the one saw the other in a dream.They each thought of a phrase the other wouldn’t know. For one of them it was a song lyric. For the other it was a nonsense phrase. Subsequently, one dreamer saw the other and passed along the lyrics to an obscure song. The other sent the nonsense phrase via text message. Then they got together.
- What they remembered was exactly right.
- Author Robert Moss, a guru of dream study and practice, reports similar experiences.
Back to Hollywood and the debate over what’s real
Good Hollywood storytelling that stretches the imagination straddles the line between “it could happen” and “there’s no way it could happen.” Run with an idea, a premise, and enough people believe it, you could have a hit show or movie. Movies such Lucy (we only use 10% of our brains) and Sixth Sense (gifted people can talk to dead people) reach into that grey and base entire stories on it. Millions of dollars are spent to push those ideas out to the public and attempt to catch hold in the popular imagination. The Matrix Trilogy had great success by being the first to popularize a concept of a computer-generated reality long before the scientific community actually started seriously debating the idea.
Accepting the fact of shared dreaming opens a whole field of study and application. I’m sure some gov’t agency out there like DARPA would be interested in a method of conveying information over any distance without use of any sort of communications equipment. Or even to have the ability to enter another person’s dream and influence them, a la the mother of all recent speculative dream-based stories, Inception. However, the mechanism doesn’t always work as expected so the reliability isn’t 100%. The friend who passed the lyric and nonsense phrase did so on different nights. The dreams weren’t “shared” in the traditional sense. The father in Ybisu Gardens slept at a different time than his family.
Perhaps, like Blake Masters, the creator of Falling Water, says “What if all of our individual dreams are part of one giant dream we all dream together.” He says that water is used as a recurring symbol in the show when the characters pass from the waking world to the shared dream world because water is a permeable barrier.
Dr. Carl Jung theorized that all minds are connected together by the collective unconscious. It’s a shared mind that connects everyone and even connects all time from present to the origins of the human species and beyond. Perhaps his most controversial theory, the collective unconscious is generally accepted but not given a lot of attention these days. The questions it raises make most scientists uncomfortable.
But not in Hollywood. It’s the sort of theory that can launch a tv or movie franchise.
Years ago I began compiling reports of shared dream experiences at reddit. They’re available in the archives.